December 2014

We now have a little more than a month and a half for our lame duck Congress to do something the new Congress in January likely won’t have the will to do

The price of a barrel of oil has been trading lower almost every day, which makes now the ideal time to raise the motor fuels tax. We’re talking just a few cents that would make a huge difference in funding. Currently the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents a gallon and it hasn’t changed since 1993. Despite vast infrastructure needs in this country, there has been little desire in Congress to increase revenue for transportation funding through tax increases. Most in the House and Senate seem content with letting the states figure out their funding needs through user fees, tolling, public/private partnerships or raising their own taxes.

But with gas prices falling to levels we haven’t seen in many years, tacking on just a few cents per gallon is as palatable as it will ever be. Of course no one likes tax increases, but people also don’t like driving through potholes or sitting in traffic because a road needs to be widened or going over a bridge that’s deteriorating. This kind of tax increase is not a difficult sell if people know the extra money they’ll be paying will go solely to infrastructure.

With many in the House and Senate leaving by January, a vote for a gas tax increase cannot be held against them like it would be if they were planning to run for re-election in two or six years. Once the new Congress is sworn into office in January, the chance is lost to do this. With Republicans controlling both houses, the likelihood of any tax increase to fund highways and bridges is virtually nonexistent and that’s bad news for the nation’s infrastructure.

One last thing: as of press time, the Buffalo area was continuing to be hit by massive, record snowfall. Our thoughts and prayers at this time go out to all crews out plowing, emergency personnel and the residents.

You can also view previous issues of Superintendent's Profile.